A field of seven 3-year-old colts is set to contest this Saturday’s running of the $1,000,000 TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. The race, which serves as the track’s highlight event each year, has produced several champion horses, including Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.
Maximum Security, perhaps the most polarizing horse in racing, headlines this year’s running. The former $16,000 maiden claimer burst onto the national scene with a dominating win in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park before crossing the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby (G1) next time out. His subsequent disqualification sent the horse racing world into an uproar that lasted several weeks. He comes into this race looking to not only avenge that result, but also avenge his first career “true” loss last time out when he was defeated by the Todd Pletcher-trained King for a Day in the Pegasus Stakes over this course.
The winner of the Haskell Invitational will receive an automatic position in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Haskell Invitational Stakes will go off as race 12 on a 14-race card featuring several other stakes events at Monmouth Park. None of the other stakes races on the card are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events; however, they still offer deep and competitive fields that could produce starters in other Breeders’ Cup events. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on July 27 at Del Mar with the running of the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1), which is a “Win and You’re In” event for the Sprint, and on July 28 at Del Mar with the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1), a win and you’re in for the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff.
The full field from the rail out includes: King for a Day, Joevia, Spun to Run, Bethlehem Road, Mucho Gusto, Everfast, and Maximum Security.
#1 King for a Day – Pletcher was high on this horse coming into 2019, but a few minor setbacks caused him to miss the Triple Crown season. He lived up to his potential lately by winning two straight in impressive fashion. He opened up the year with a win in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico before defeating Maximum Security in the Pegasus Stakes last time out. Pletcher’s top rider, John Velazquez, will have the mount, which obviously is a good sign. This is a colt who could be progressing at the perfect time to pick up a Grade 1 victory.
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#5 Mucho Gusto – For most of the early part of the year, this was known as trainer Bob Baffert’s “fourth-string” horse. At times, he looked that way, especially when he was a disappointing third in the Sunland Derby (G3). Since that effort, though, he has turned it around, winning two straight stakes at Santa Anita Park. His latest triumph came in the Affirmed Stakes (G3), where he beat fellow stablemate Roadster. Baffert has had tremendous success in this race over the years, which only adds to his chances of winning.
#7 Maximum Security – As mentioned above, this is the most polarizing horse in racing. His Kentucky Derby (G1) disqualification completely changed the Triple Crown season and sent his backers into an uproar. He was ultra-impressive when taking the Derby field gate to wire, and his Florida Derby (G1) victory was impressive as well, which is why he is the logical favorite. However, he did lose the Pegasus Stakes to King for a Day on return, so he’ll have to turn the tables on that rival. He certainly will. have every chance to so if he can return to his top form after his prep race.
#6 Everfast – We’ll see if he can bounce back after running poorly in the Belmont Stakes (G1) last time out. Two races back, he showed a new ability to rally from well off the pace when finishing second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at big odds. He is a hard horse predict and has a resume with many highs and lows. He’ll most likely drop to the back of the pack, hoping that the pace develops up front, so that he can attempt a strong closing run. If the pace sets up he could get a piece of things.
#2 Joevia – After an average early part of the season, Joevia has come alive while showing off a strong early turn of foot. Two races back, he won the Long Branch Stakes over this track before setting the pace and settling for third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) last time out. The Shanghai Bobby colt should do more of the same here, which is go to the front and see how far he can take this field on the front end. If he somehow gets out alone, he’ll could sneak away from the field at a price.
#3 Spun to Run – It’s time for this Hard Spun colt to step up in competition after two straight victories at Parx. It took him five races to break his maiden, but it is a positive sign that he came right back to win against allowance company. His latest win, which came by over 7 lengths, showed that he is ready to step up in competition. He should be forwardly placed in this spot. It will just be a matter of whether he is ready for this kind of class.
#4 Bethlehem Road – He’ll try graded stakes company for the second straight time after finishing fourth in the Ohio Derby (G3) last time out. Before that effort, he finished first in three straight races at Parx, including the Parx Spring Derby. Despite his distant loss in the Ohio Derby, it is a positive sign that the runner-up Math Wizard came back to run a solid third in the Indiana Derby (G3) last weekend. We’ll see if he can step up today.